For no particular reason – in no particular order – Terry Phillips has begun an occasional series recalling some of his favourite Cardiff City characters. John Parkin had only a brief stay with the Bluebirds, but The Beast made his presence felt.
Former Cardiff City striker Jon Parkin began his career with home town club Barnsley in 1998 – and ‘The Beast’ finally hung up his boots before the start of this season.
The Yorkshireman scored on his Cardiff City debut at Norwich City in 2011 along the way and described himself as, “just an average fella from Barnsley, who ended up playing football for a bit.”
He looked back on that ‘bit” – two decades playing football – in his book, “Feed The Beast: Pints, Pies, Poles and a Bellyfull of Goals.”
The hardback version of the book became a top five Amazon sports best seller.
Parkin almost missed his first team debut, against Hartlepool United, because he had forgotten about a rule change increasing the number of substitutes from three to five.
He was 17-years-old and says: “On my first pre-season, there was a fixture and I didn’t think I was going to be involved that night for the game and met up with a girl. We went for fish and chips.
“The game started at 5pm. I realised it was five subs instead of three, was on the bench and went on at half-time even though I’d eaten fish and chips.”
That was at the start of Parkin’s playing career and, while other players might have eaten chicken, pasta or simply scrambled eggs on toast, a typical pre-match meal for the 6ft 4ins striker would include fishcakes, burgers or a fry-up. Parkin admits he will go down as, “the last of a dying breed.”
The 17st hit-man, now aged 38, became known as “The Beast” among club fans everywhere he played. Invariably, most would chant “Feed The Beast And He Will Score.”
No-nonsense Parky played for 14 different clubs – including Barnsley, Cardiff, Hull, Stoke, Preston, and Newport – and scored more than 200 goals in 650-plus appearances.
He never had much pace or fantastic technique, but his sheer physical presence, shrewdness, courage and ability to outmuscle defenders made him a potent threat.
Parkin tweeted before retiring: “It’s come to that time in my career when no matter how hard I try, I simply can’t run the 100m in under 10 seconds any more.
”I always knew that once my pace went I could never be the same player so I’ve decided it’s time to hang the boots up.”
He made 13 first team appearances in four years with home town club The Tykes, while he signed a two-and-a-half-years contract for Cardiff when he made the move from Preston North End in 2011.
Parkin scored in his first Bluebirds game at Norwich, tucking away a neat volley, but only made a total of 14 appearances. When Jay Bothroyd regained fitness, Parkin became a regular substitute.
He scored in a League Cup tie against Huddersfield Town the following season, but was told by new City manager Malky Mackay he should go out on loan. He joined Championship club Doncaster Rovers.
Parkin returned to Cardiff during January 2012 after loan spells with Rovers and Huddersfield before, eight days later, making a temporary move to Scunthorpe United.
The loan was extended until the end of the season in March 2012 before club and player mutually agreed to terminate his contract that summer.
Parkin played in all three English Football League divisions plus National League and National League North, where he ended his career at York City in 2018-19.
“It’s around 670 games and 225 goals, which ain’t too bad for a fat lad from Barnsley,” he concluded.
The highlights of his career included helping Stoke City earn promotion to the Premier League in 2008. He played for York when they won the FA Trophy (2017) and Fleetwood’s 2014 promotion team (via play-offs).
Parkin was voted Preston player of the year (2009), York clubman of the year (2018) and was selected in the Conference Premier all-star team (2015).
There are endless tales from his long career in his autobiography . . . .
Runaway golf buggy:
Stoke went on a pre-season tour in 2007, playing Real Madrid in a friendly.
“We went golfing in Austria before playing Madrid,” he said. “I had a golf buggy with goalkeeper Steve Simonsen and we got to a hole at the top of this hill.
“I had an urge to put my foot down. We raced to the bottom of the hill and sort of skidded it around on some gravel. I bailed out and cut all the bottom of my leg and the buggy ended up rolling over twice with Simmo still in it.
“It wasn’t my finest hour. We got the buggy back to the club shop and it cost me about £1,200 to fix the smashed screen and dented roof.”
World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro:
“I got bandaged up because there was no way I was missing that game against Real, asked for Cannavaro’s shirt and he gave it me. I thought that was that.
“Then he tapped me on the shoulder and obviously couldn’t speak English, but gestured at my shirt and I was like ‘What?! You want this?’ “He nodded. – a World Cup winner and he asked for my quadruple XL Stoke shirt!”
“I’ve never even tried to stick to a diet. I had fitness coaches at every club and left my diet sheet in my car boot.”
“I’m a stickler for pastries so when we’d call at Greggs I’d get my tuna crunch sandwich, a bag of crisps, a pepperoni pizza, a steak bake, and either a bacon and cheese turnover or a sausage, beans and cheese melt.
Car crash that didn’t happen:
“When I was at Preston and living in Barnsley I would only give myself 10 minutes spare, so if there was any traffic and I was late I’d be fined.
“Feed the Beast and he will score”.
He’s 6’4″ and weighs 19-stone, but Jon Parkin has over 200 goals to his name.
Watch more on today’s Football Focus.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) September 15, 2018
“I woke up one day and it had snowed. It got to about 09.30am and I knew there was no chance of making training. The manager, Alan Irvine, would go mad. I rang him and lied, saying: “Sorry I’m not making it in, I’ve had a car crash. Somebody skidded in the snow and went into me.
“He told me not to worry about it, get myself home. For the next few days I had to drive a different car to make out mine was in the garage, getting fixed.”
Parkin’s planned new careers will keep him in touch with football – after-dinner speaking, his own Under The Cosh podcast and YouTube channel.